How do you assess the necessity of moving toward digital banking infrastructure?
A few years ago, we noticed a change in the dynamics of our consumers. Kuwait has a youthful society, and the average age is falling every year. We cater to the needs of all our customers, though we have to adapt to meet the demands of the new generations. Today, our customers want technology and want to be on the cutting edge of things. We have been improving our technology and digital banking services for some years now. This process is three-fold: to improve our products, provide services online, and give better customer service. The less human interaction there is in a transaction between customers and the executioner, the more efficient and error-free it is. This is what the new generation requires and is the reason why we are currently investing a great deal in technology. We have about 200 services that we can execute online for our clients.
What is the strategy behind the automated branches that you are launching?
We have launched many digital and innovative technology products, and we have recently launched our first automated branch in Kuwait. The XTM is a machine in a 6-sqm space that allows customers to do several transactions: withdraw cash, deposit money, or open an account without the need of a debit or ATM card but only their national ID. There is an officer at hand that one can converse with. For those who want to conduct more sophisticated transactions, such as opening an account, buying gold, updating an application, or signing or receiving approval on something, they can sign a document and the transaction will be performed for them. This automated branch may well be the future; it is adaptable, and as we go, we can add more services to it. The technology, software, development, and analytics of the XTM were built in-house. Our own IT research team in our subsidiaries in Turkey developed it, and we are rolling it out now to the entire group. In Turkey, we have about 100 automated XTM branches, and in Kuwait, we started with two this year. One is in the Avenues Mall, and the other is at the entrance of our Faiha branch.
How will KFH continue to lead the Islamic finance industry, both in Kuwait and globally?
We have many strengths at KFH, and one that is core to us is that we are the first Islamic bank. We offer a wide range of sharia-compliant products and services. The core ones are on the asset and liability side, and we take deposits and invest them on our customers' behalf in several structures. We share the profits of these deposits with the customer. We cater to our customers' needs in a unique way that no one has done before. We have 45 women-only branches, as this is what our customers have asked for. There is no other bank in Kuwait with women-only branches. We have a global presence and 484 branches across Kuwait, Turkey, Malaysia, Bahrain, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. Our customers appreciate that when they want to deal internationally in commerce or business, they can utilize our branches. Internationally, Islamic banking is not widely available as is the case in Kuwait, which has five Islamic banks. The markets that are most interesting for us are those with strong Islamic banking demand and short supply of Islamic financial institutions. We serve foreign communities that want to have the option of an Islamic bank, such as in Germany, where there are almost 5 million Muslims. The most important thing is that we stay true and close to our customers. Our core vision is to lead the international development of Islamic financial services, and become the most trusted and sustainably most profitable shariah-compliant bank in the world.